Ragtime Essay, Research Paper
The novel Ragtime written by E.L. Doctorow in 1974 begins in 1902 with the description of a lovely home in New Rochell, New York, and the civilized, successful family that lived there. Their lives were, for the most part, calm and predictable. As Doctorow says, There were no Negroes. There were no immigrants. Suddenly their lives were interrupted when Mother discovered a baby in the garden–a black baby. Soon Mother took in the baby and Sarah, its mother, and all seemed well until a man named Coalhouse Walker Jr. appeared at the door one Sunday and changed the lives of the family forever. Coalhouse Walker Jr. became a catalyst whose actions had a great effect on the lives of many people in the story, including Younger Brother, Father, and Mother. Coalhouse was most influential on Younger Brother. Younger Brother was a rather clever man, who designed fire works for Father s business. Younger Brother struggled throughout the book trying to find his identity. In the early stages of this book he stalked a young show dancer and star named Evelyn Nesbit. Eventually Evelyn noticed that she was being followed and introduced herself to Younger Brother, and they began a brief affair. He learned where she lived and what her daily routine was, but he never approached her. She felt intimidated but protected. (Ragtime 46) Evelyn eventually lost interest in Younger Brother. He was just a toy of Evelyn s, but obviously he didn t realize that and was devastated. After Younger Brother s recovery he joined Coalhouse s gang. Younger Brother spent all hours of the day with wanted criminals. He and his gang later invaded the library of J.P. Morgan, who was a very wealthy businessman with a love for the priceless possessions in his library. After days of negotiating Coalhouse turned himself over to the authorities, but his gang of black men and Younger Brother escaped. After this matter Younger Brother s life was drastically changed, and he headed for Mexico. While in Mexico he worked illegally with revolutionaries and was eventually killed. His relationship with Coalhouse turned him from a young man searching for his identity to a hunted felon. The extent to which Father s life was altered was severe. Since Father had previous dealings with Coalhouse the Police Chief and the District Attorney called on his expertise. He spent several hours interacting with these men, which increased his status in the community but hurt his relationship with Mother. After the Coalhouse incident was over, Father returned to his office to find that Younger Brother had left him blueprints in repayment for money he borrowed. These blueprints contained innovative ideas that the Army would be delighted to have. Younger Brother invented seventeen ordnance devices, some of which were so advanced that they were not used by the United States until World War II. (Ragtime 317) Father took these ideas to Washington and became heavily involved with the Government and Military. Father spent lots of time with high-ranking officers of the United States Army and Navy. He even bought an apartment in Washington, because of the time commitment. Eventually Father died while doing work for Washington. Coalhouse affected Father in a negative way because he decreased the amount of time Father could spend with his family.
Coalhouse affected Mother in both positive and negative ways. Coalhouse, Sarah, and the baby diffused Mothers racial prejudice. In the early stages of the babe s life Mother was skeptical, but later she learned to love and accept it. In the end of the book Mother actually got remarried to an immigrant, named Tathe. Another positive factor is that Mother was allowed to keep the black baby, whom she loved and cared for so much. Also this baby brought compassion back into Mothers life. On the down side, Coalhouse tore her relationship with Father apart. Here are some of Fathers feelings towards Coalhouse upon Coalhouses arrival She won t see him, he told mother. Am I to go on entertaining Coalhouse Walker every Sunday for the rest of my life? (Ragtime 161) There were times when Father decided to help Coalhouse, but he did it so his life with his family would return to normal. After all this, Mother was a much happier person and loved spending time with her new husband, the Baron. Coalhouse walker Jr. greatly affected the lives of this family throughout this book. His actions changed the family s views about blacks forever. It was a major advancement for a black women and her baby to live with a white family. This may have set a trend for the rest of the nation, and help diffuse racial prejudices. Coalhouse made an excellent stride for the community of blacks.